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International Harvester ca. 1930
By Randy Harter
Fort Wayne Reader
Few companies would have as much impact on Fort Wayne as Chicago’s International Harvester, which chose our city over 26 others vying for the company’s new heavy-duty truck plant. After having announced their intent in 1919, construction began in 1922 at the intersection of East Pontiac and Bueter Road. Production began in 1923 and a milestone was reached at the plant forty years later in 1963 when the one-millionth truck, a semi-tractor, rolled off the assembly line. Besides a wide variety of heavy duty trucks built here, over 500,000 Scout vehicles, a precursor to today’s SUV, were also manufactured at the local complex.
At its peak, the Fort Wayne site employed 10,600 people, but sadly, the city would lose the plant to a Springfield, Ohio facility despite Mayor Win Moses offering a then unheard-of $31M incentive package to stay. By the time the plant closed in 198,3 employment there had dwindled to about 3,000 people.
Fittingly, the last semi-tractor produced in the local plant was for another local company, North American Van Lines (now known as SIRVA). As well as employing so many for so long, the utilities, streets, railroad spurs and other infrastructure required to bring Harvester to the undeveloped far east side of Fort Wayne also caused the area to be development ready for other industries interested in locating here. Harvester’s new “east end” neighbors would soon come to include Magnavox, Zollner Piston, Rea Magnet Wire, General Hosiery, Capehart-Farnsworth, Truck Engineering and others, further expanding the city’s diversity in local employers.
(Image courtesy of ACPL)
Randy Harter is a Fort Wayne historian and author of two books on local history.